Archive for January, 2009

Summer and winter towels done

muttaburrasaurus_doneTa-dah! The towels I wrote about here are finally done. As Lynette commented, the colour blocks show really well – and I think to a ringer the connection would be immediately apparent.

It’s taken me a while to do the finishing. Partly because I’m back at work after the summer holidays, but mostly having trouble figuring out how to finish the ends.



I planned to have some plain weave at each end, but it flared out really badly. (Does anyone have a suggestion for preventing this? – the plain weave was wider than the summer and winter area). I ended picking out the machine-stitched hem, which I thought would be more durable, and hand hemming. I did use the machine to stitch the method name on the hanging tag.

With experience from these “full-scale samples” I’m keen to do more with this idea. Petlins, my local weaving shop (and how lucky I am in Australia to have one!!), reopened this week so I have stocked up on some more traditional colours for the next batch of teatowels.  Language question – here a “teatowel” is a cloth used to dry dishes when washing up. Is that the standard meaning elsewhere?

Muttaburrasaurus Delight Major

muttaburrasaurusCurrently on the loom – a summer and winter representation of Muttaburrasaurus Delight Major (fourth’s place bell).

A deliberately obscure (but accurate) description – and a huge amount of fun.

I’ve been working on the change ringing teatowels idea I mentioned in this post. An initial sample was very useful – wet finishing (machine cold wash and warm tumble dry) made a big difference to the appearance of the cloth – and left enough warp for two towels.

muttaburrasaurus2I see the back of the pattern as I weave, which reduces the number of shafts to lift on most picks. Each horizontal stripe represents one “change” of ringing (in which each bell rings once in a predetermined order). Given the limited range of colours I have available, I’ve used pink to show where the treble (highest note) bell sounds and turquoise to follow the path of the “fourth’s place” bell.

plantagenetIt’s easier to see the changing positions of the bells on this view of the cloth on its way to the cloth beam (just for fun I’ll be pendantic and mention that this is sixth’s place Plantagenet Surprise Major).

Weaving lessons so far?

  • I’m using a temple again and like it.  Takes a bit of fussing, but I’m getting a better and more consistent result.
  • The three shuttle thing is very slow, but it’s not a race and I’m finding it interesting and absorbing.
  • I haven’t shown the sampler, since the yarns chosen (cottolin warp, pattern weft and tabby weft) are unusual and chosen specifically for this project, as is the actual threading so probably not helpful for other applications.  The general comment is that the order of picks  – which tabby first, how to manage the two pattern colours etc – has a big impact on the final effect.
  • muttaburra_selvedgethe selvedges are bumpy where I carry the colours up. Cally has been talking about selvedges here and here. Personally, I’m accepting them as an integral element of the weave. The weft bends up and down as it passes across the warp, and it bends around as it is carried up the selvedge. It’s the nature of the beast.

That’s it for weaving content. Some background information – the particular patterns or bellringing methods I’m using on these full scale samples are not in standard use. I’m planning to give them to my mother (also a bellringer, as are most of my immediate family), who whose interests also include paleontology (muttaburrasaurus is/was an Australian dinosaur – more info here) and english history (she’s a member of the Plantagenet Society)

Undulating twill scarf finished

Undulating twill scarf

Undulating twill scarf

This is the completed scarf, from the same warp as the sampler I wrote about here.

sine sample

sine sample

I spent some time in Fibreworks PCW, trying to modify the sine curve pattern to avoid long floats without having to resort to an extra tabby weft (since I didn’t like the impact on look or handle in the sampler). What I ended with, after washing and pressing, is a long way from the original design. Instead of a sinuous vertical line along the length of the fabric, I have an angular line. The straight twill at the pivot point of the “curve”  has become a horizontal band which is very apparent both visually and to touch.

Original sine curve

Original sine curve

modified curve

modified curve

Some lessons:

  • small changes can have a big impact
  • using a temple helped improve consistency of beat and selvedge
  • be careful the conclusions you draw from a sample. I didn’t like the moss green section of the sample and was worried when my MIL chose that colour for the scarf. I love the colour in the final product – maybe the yuk pattern or the impact of other areas of the sampler put me off.

Although it didn’t go according to plan, I love the end result. It drapes nicely and to my eye has an elegant and classic look.

Undulating Twill

Twill weave structures were the second project we did in first year weaving class in 2008 – you can see a very boring photo here and a somewhat better view here.  (red herring – it’s fun going back to an early post and remembering the bliss of discovering that I could create cloth! I still find it amazing). In the last couple of weeks I’ve been working through a second year exercise – undulating twills on 8 shafts.

An aside – I began this blog with a self-focused primary purpose – a record of my progress learning to weave. It’s a nice bonus if it’s of interest or help to others but there’s bound to be mistakes (learning process), so corrections and suggestions are always very welcome.

twill_slopeInformation from the Handweavers’ Guild of America’s website describes twill structure as loom controlled with floats formed over at least two threads, offset with every shot (see HGA’s Weaving Structure Classification). The classic example is denim jeans, with the offset causing a characteristic diagonal slant in the appearance of the cloth.

The start of my original twill sampler shows a 2/2 twill. The (reddish) weft goes over two threads then under two. The next row up does the same thing, but shifted over one warp thread. In theory if everything is done just right the slope should be at 45 degrees (shown by the black line).  Hmm… well, where would the interest be if it was easy? You’ll have to cut me some slack since this was the first centimetres of my first twill weaving.

With an undulating twill, you deliberately play with the slope (instead of accidentally!). There are a few different ways of achieving this:

undulating1 * By varying the beat – how hard I packed down the weft with each row of weaving. Section (1) was a light beat, around 13 ppi (picks or rows per inch);
(2) medium – around 19 ppi;
(3) heavy – 32 ppi.
You can see the twill angle getting more acute as the beat got heavier.

* Varying the warp tension – how tightly stretched the warp is as I’m weaving. If it’s tighter I should end up with more picks per inch in the final, relaxed cloth. Sections (4), (5) and (6) are sections of increasing tension. I found this tricky, since everything gets sloppy and difficult if you go too loose and I fretted about things snapping if I went too tight.

undulating2* By changing the offset. In the earlier examples the diagonal moved across one thread of warp each row of weaving.  In (7) I skipped every 4th row (ie moved across 2 threads of warp);
(8) missed every 3rd row;
(9) missed every 2nd row.

* By repeating rows.
(10) repeated every 4th row;
(11) repeated every third row.

Again I found the weaving challenging – repeated rows slide together easily, when skipping a row the picks keep away from each other. I wasn’t within cooee of an even beat. My selvedges were also wildly uneven (not shown – there are limits!).

I also find the jagged edges of the twill line visually distracting – like a pixelated photo.

There are other methods not included in the sampler.
* Varying the threading. Everything above was on a standard straight threading, shafts 1 through 8 and repeated until arriving at the cream section and reversing to 8 through 1. Liz (weaving teacher) supplied notes and drawdowns showing the impact of skipping or repeating threads in the warp instead of, or as well as, the weft.

* Varying the denting. My sampler was 18 warp threads in every inch, threaded as evenly as I could (given I only have a 10 dent per inch reed). Liz showed us a stunningly beautiful sample of “crammed and spaced” twill, where the number of threads per dent varied from 1 to 3 in a long, smooth progression. The sample was in undyed silk and the final product was a wedding shawl.

* Playing with colour, lustre and texture. Opportunities for optical tricks.

undulating3Having tried basics, the next step in the sampler was to mix up some of the techniques.

The green section here used a combination of skipping and repeating rows.

For the black weft section, I used a line based on a vase I have. I drew it on graph paper and reduced it to fit 8 shafts  – if the line fell on column 2 of the graph paper, that meant lift 2. If the line fell on column 8, that’s lift 8. If it fell on column 9 that didn’t fit (I only had 8 lift combinations), so it’s wrapped around and becomes lift 1. Column 10 wraps to lift 2 etc. Clear as mud??

I really like the line it creates but there were some long warp floats which can cause problems in use.

undulating4Next up in burgundy another design from Liz’s notes.

The green is another from me, trying to create a design while avoiding some of the things I found unappealing earlier – long floats and jagged lines.  The result is a definite no!

I haven’t gone into the variety of twill lifts  – another design choice where you try to balance appearance (clear strong lines) and practicality (eg floats).

undulating5The final section of the sampler are four variations of the same “sine curve” sequence I found in Liz’s notes, originally from Handwoven November Decemaber 1989.

(12) was the sequence of lifts from the notes – a nice shape, but very long floats, even after I adjusted the design a little to remove some of the repeats.
(13) followed the note’s suggestion of a pick of plain weave between each twill pick. I used a black sewing cotton – visually disruptive and harsh to feel.
(14), (15) and (16) all used fine threads from cone ends I picked up at an ATASDA meeting. (14) is darkish brown, (15) mid brown and (16) light brown. I don’t know the fibre content, but they were quite loosely plied and the impact on the handle of the fabric is not so strong. I think visually the light brown is the least intrusive.

Some other experiments and lessons from this sampler:

* I made some adjustments to the loom, replacing some of the ties to texsolv. I’m continuing to improve my warping process.

* lashed on the warp instead of tying on. I’m somewhat clumsy and found this much easier.

* My warp was long enough for a project – a scarf – as well as the sampler. In the past I’ve cut off a sample, then retied for the next section. This time I tried a process based on Leigh’s example using a 2-stick heading. It got ugly at times in the process (see “clumsy” above), but I did get good warp tension throughout.

* Colour challenge – I chose neutral warp colours, and experimented with the interaction with different weft colours.

The project scarf came off the loom this morning. I’ll post a photo when it’s washed and finished.

Looking for change ringing weavers???

In a comment Trapunto wrote “And my question would be, how many bellringing weavers are there??”.

Well, there’s me. There’s Anthea in the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of NSW. The guild meets in the church hall behind St Paul’s Burwood (a suburb of Sydney), which has bells. Anthea heard the bells one day and went up the tower to see what it was all about.

There’s been an article in Handwoven which I came upon by chance – “Oranges & Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clement’s”, Pauline Drake, September/October 2000, pp. 32-34. The author used the simplest change ringing method (or pattern), plain hunt, to select stripe colours. However on checking I find she learnt about ringing from a book.

There’s a draft on with the note “I have a cousin who is an enthusiastic change-ringer. This is one of several patterns I’ve worked on as a gift for her and her “happy ringers.””

I’ve also found a project exhibited at Liverpool Cathedral UK in 2008 – an artist worked with ringers and “weaving technicians” to produce banners depicting bellringing methods.

So I haven’t discovered a lot, although I’m still convinced about similarities:

  • An attraction to patterns and permutations.
  • A love of process, not instant results.
  • A somewhat unusual interest – although something most people know a bit about (or think they do).
  • A wealth of jargon with very specific meanings, some of which is used rather differently in “mainstream” language.
  • A lot of underlying theory that can enrich the experience, but you don’t have to know to get along.
  • A certain level of dexterity required and some physical demands.
  • With both I try for an “alert rhythm” – physically repetitive motions that benefit from constant fine-tuning, plus following a pattern where your mind can drift a bit but with the risk  of undesirable results.

The major difference I can think of is that weaving is solitary while change bellringing is done in teams (one per bell – or one person per two bells with handbells).

bristol_bookmarkMy overshot experiment is finished. I first described it here. I was working on my four shaft table loom, so had four blocks possible.

Without getting too distracted by ringing theory, on the left is the beginning of Bristol Surprise Major (diagram created in the online method database). The bells start by ringing once in turn, highest note to lowest. Then we ring again in a different order according to set patterns or methods. The path of the treble (bell with highest note) is shown in red. The path of the 4th bell of the eight is shown in blue – and the same path is traced in the bookmark I wove.  It’s repeated because I wanted some width and also to experiment with creating a visual break with limited blocks (any pattern of the black weft is hidden by the black warp).

bristol_summerandwinterIt’s more a novelty thing – I don’t have a lot of use currently for such heavy fabric (cottolin sett at 48 epi). I’m now interested in the possibilities of summer and winter – especially given my big loom has 24 shafts to play with. Initial experiments in my weaving software (Fiberworks PCW) gives this possibility for the beginning of the path of the 4th bell in bristol major.

bristol_sandw_trebleIf I juggle with three shuttles this could be possible – the path of the treble in red as well as the 4ths place bell in blue.

Maybe fun for teatowels . Step two is lots of sampling and playing in fiberworks – for a start this is the back view and I’ll probably have to flip things around to avoid getting a mirror image. Plus all the treadling options to explore – Leigh has some wonderful posts on Summer and Winter, including this one.

Step one is finishing the undulating twill  currently on the loom – more on that another day.


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January 2009

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